Oil Patterns In Ten Pin Bowling – What You Need To Know

This page provides an overview of some of the various oil patterns in ten pin bowling. I will be focusing on the PBA Animal Patterns mostly. The most commonly used patterns include the House shot pattern, Sport shot pattern, and Tournament patterns. These patterns are designed to challenge bowlers in different ways.

The House pattern is designed for recreational bowlers to be fun, with a consistent amount of oil across the lane. With less oil on the outside of the lane, it helps to block the ball and make scoring less difficult. Those slightly missed shots will score, and you look like a pro! That is good for business!

The Sport pattern has more oil in the center of the lane and less on the outside, creating a more difficult challenge for bowlers. And the volume of oil is higher, so the outside of the lane is not as helpful as the house shot pattern. This is definitely for the more experienced bowlers

The Tournament pattern is designed for competitive bowlers and is the most difficult of the three, with heavy oil in the center and the least amount of oil on the outside. These type patterns are used in the collegiate competition, as well as the Pros. And some open bowling tournaments as well.

Introduction To Oil Patterns For Ten Pin Bowling

The types of oil patterns used may be referred to as ” Volume” Patterns. This is simply referring to the fact that they are using higher volumes of oil. These oil patterns requires a higher level of accuracy and attention to the length and milliliters of oil used. And the “Specialty” pattern, is a unique pattern designed for a specific competition. Basically the “shape” of the oil pattern used.

The volume of oil is designed to challenge bowlers with a higher skill set and accuracy level. It uses higher volumes of oil distributed across the lane, with the higher concentration of oil in the center of the lane. This pattern is often used in tournaments and has a wider range of oil, making it more difficult for bowlers to read the lane.

The Specialty pattern is a unique pattern designed specifically for a particular tournament or competition. This pattern is often used in competitive bowling and may feature more oil in certain areas of the lane, such as the center. Or less oil in other areas, such as the outside.

Where Are The Volume And Specialty Patterns Used?

Both the Volume and the Specialty pattern requires a high level of skill and accuracy to navigate. This means you need to have good control over you bowling line. If you are just a beginner, these patterns are probably going to be very frustrating for you.

The length and volume of oil for the Volume and Specialty patterns will vary depending on the tournament or competition.

Generally, this means that you will have better success if you have a few different balls for varying lane conditions. And again, good control over ball speed and accuracy is important.

Area that use these demanding oil conditions are tournaments, and specialty leagues like “Sport Shot” leagues, and the Professional Bowlers Association (PBA) for their tournament play.

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Overview of 10 Pin Bowling Oil Patterns

Before I get into the PBA oil patterns, I want to give some details on the most common patterns, the house shot, modified house shot, and the sport patterns.

I am giving the general conditions and some tips on how to play each pattern, and suggestions on which ball you may want to try. But remember, all houses are different.

Some lanes have more friction than others. And even with a higher volume of oil, they may still hook quite a bit.

I have found several different tips and suggestions on how to play these lane conditions. But, they vary with the type of bowler you are.

Some general rules:

  • Strokers will start on the outside of the lanes
  • Tweeners will start a bit further inside
  • Power players will start even farther inside the lane
  • The rule of 31 gives a general starting point
  • Try to experiment on your own as well

Bowling House Shot Pattern

The typical bowling house shot pattern is the most basic and commonly used oil pattern in 10 pin bowling. It is a simple pattern with a limited amount of oil, making it a relatively easy pattern to play. Typically, the length of oil is in the range of 38 to 41 feet.

Using the rule of 31, and subtracting the length of the oil, the starting point would be 7 to 10 board. Now, the rule is telling where the ball exits the oil, and that means your ball will be hooking within a few feet of exiting the oil.

The sweet spot might be a board or two different, but this is the general starting point.

House Shot Is Also Referred To As The Blocked Shot

It is often called a “Blocked Shot”. This is because the oil is designed to keep the ball headed towards the pocket. With lighter oil outside, a missed shot to the outside of the lane (hits the dry) and will hook back towards the pocket.

While a missed shot to the inside of the lane (slides on the oil) keeping it heading towards the pocket. Now keep in mind, this is only if you miss the shot slightly. If you miss by a lot, the oil can’t help you!

For this pattern, a medium-weight ball is recommended. The best way to play the house shot is to stay near the center of the lane and use a straight or light hook shot. Most “house shots” use the 8-12 board scoring area.

Modified House Shot Bowling Pattern

The bowling modified house shot is a variation of the basic house shot, featuring an increased length and volume of oil. This pattern is slightly more challenging than the house shot and is best played with a heavier ball.

But, as we get older, chances are you are going to be using a lighter ball. So, in that case all you can do is throw the ball harder or increase your speed on the ball

Players should focus on using a hook shot to stay in the oil-covered area of the lane and avoid the dry area.

Bowling Sport Shot Pattern

Sport leagues were created by offering experienced bowlers the “Sport Shot”. It challenges bowlers each week by offering the opportunity to bowl on the Pro tour oil patterns used by the PBA.

The sport shot is characterized by a higher volume and length of oil, using a specialty pattern. The result is a much more difficult pattern to play. For this pattern, a heavy ball is recommended.

The best way to play the sport pattern is to use a hook shot to stay in the oil-covered area of the lane and avoid the dry area.

Bowling alleys also may provide a couple of lanes with the featured shot applied for practice during the week before the league begins. The players that take the time to practice the shot and get accustomed to the shot score higher.

They have figured out the shot in practice, so they know how to score on the pattern when the league play begins.

PBA Animal Patterns

The PBA Animal Patterns are the official playing conditions used on the PBA Tour. They are considered the hardest patterns to bowl on.

Some use a higher volume of oil and a greater length than other patterns, making them more difficult patterns to play. While other patterns have a shorter length of oil.

Tips for playing these patterns include utilizing The Rule of 31 and your ball’s differential to help you create a better angle into the pocket. Generally, start on the outside and move inside for most patterns.

Some you may quickly discover are better played closer to the middle of the lane using very little hook. This is why practice on these patterns beforehand is so important!

All of the patterns are heavier oil volume and flatter than the house shot.

What are the PBA Oil Patterns In Ten Pin Bowling?

  • Shark – 47 ft.
  • Cheetah – 35 ft.
  • Viper Pattern – 36 ft.
  • Chameleon – 39 ft
  • Scorpion – 42 ft
  • Badger – 52 ft
  • Bear – 41 ft
  • Wolf – 33 ft
  • Dragon Pattern -45 ft

Details Of The PBA Tournament Oil Patterns

These are the patterns that we see the PBA Pros bowling on when they are televised. Some sport shot leagues use these same patterns to create a different challenge for bowlers each week.

Shark Pattern – 47 feet

This pattern forces bowlers to play deep inside the center of the lanes, like sharks that troll the depths of the ocean

The PBA Shark Pattern is a long pattern that uses 44 – 47 feet of oil. Using the rule of 31, the starting area boards to play it are 13 – 16 . This is where the ball will be exiting the oil.

Shark is considered to be a difficult pattern to play as the pattern is tighter and the lane transitions are steeper. It is the longer oil pattern that can “bite” bowlers.

The best ball to use on this pattern is an asymmetrical core with a high differential and a low radius of gyration. Use an aggressive ball with some surface.

Players who have trouble slowing their ball speed will struggle on this one.

  • Strokers start in the track area.
  • Tweeners start inside the track area.
  • Power players start even further inside.

Tip: Aim at the third arrow, using straighter angles and avoid too much speed.

Cheetah – 35 feet

The cheetah is a shorter pattern that can be dangerous for some players. The ball will react quicker and stronger on the back end. It is recommended to play this one near the gutter

The PBA Cheetah Pattern is a medium-length pattern that uses 35 feet of oil. So, the rule of 31, puts the ball exiting the oil around the 4 board target area. Again, you ball is exiting the oil here, so it will begin to hook within a few feet.

Cheetah is considered to be an easy pattern to play because it has a wide range of pocket entry points. This allows for a variety of ball paths. The best ball to use on this pattern is a symmetrical core with a medium-sized radius of gyration.

  • Use a smooth rolling ball. Aggressive balls with some surface are good on this pattern.
  • A urethane ball is also a good ball to use due to the higher friction on this pattern.
  • Strokers play near the 5 board
  • Tweeners can play around 5 with more ball speed.
  • Power players play inside more but target close to the gutter.

Tips Use a medium-lope break point ball and aim at the second arrow.

Viper – 36 Feet

The PBA Viper Pattern is a 36 foot pattern that has a medium to medium high volume of oil. this is a little shorter than the typical house pattern. But, a little longer than the Cheetah. The rule of 31 puts the ball exiting the oil at 5 board general area.

Viper is considered to be a difficult pattern to play because the pattern is shorter. It requires an accurate shot. The outside bowler is considered to have the advantage here. Players with a big hook will have a hard time with the ball hooking too much.

The best ball to use on this pattern is an asymmetrical core with a high differential and a low radius of gyration. A urethane ball is a good ball for the crankers as it will help to keep the ball motion under control.

  • Strokers start near the 5 board
  • Tweeners start inside 5 board
  • Crankers might start inside the 2nd arrow, playing the gutter

Tip: Aim at the first arrow and avoid too much speed. Start outside and move in.

Chameleon – 39 feet

The PBA Chameleon Pattern is a tournament pattern that is used on a shorter and more sloped lane condition. It uses a medium volume of oil and has a shorter length than some of the other patterns.

The shorter length and less oil make it an easier pattern to play. The rule of 31 puts the ball exiting the oil around the 8 board, just inside the second arrow.

The lower volume of oil may make the transition later a bit tricky as the ball will want to hook more. But, this pattern provide many options for players to use a variety of balls

Tips for playing this pattern include

  • Strokers starting point is around the 8 board.
  • Tweeners will be starting about the second arrow.
  • Power players will likely star inside more targeting the 2 arrow break point.

Tip: You may want to try a weaker ball as the lanes break down. Utilizing the break point and your ball’s differential to help you create a better angle into the pocket.

Scorpion – 42 feet

The PBA Scorpion pattern is a medium volume pattern that also has a length and specialty shot similar to a lot of house shots. The moderate volume of oil and medium length of oil, makes this pattern somewhat difficult.

Using the rule of 31, the ball exits the oil around the 11 board. This is an area that many players use for the house shot. The problems later would be oil carry down and transition. But, overall this condition should be familiar to most players. Accuracy is the key, miss either way and you will likely be looking at splits

The best ball to use on the Scorpion Pattern is a ball with a medium differential, which will help to control the oil and help you to create a better angle into the pocket.

  • Strokers will be starting on the 2 arrow
  • Tweeners will be inside the second arrow.
  • Power players will be around the third arrow.

Tip: Play this shot like you play your house shot.

Badger – 52 feet

The Badger at 52 feet, is the longest oil pattern used in PBA tournaments. Be prepared to play this one straight with lower ball speeds. You will need to focus on accuracy on every shot. Misses on this pattern will keep your score lower.

You need a ball with surface around 500 on the fresh, and use a ball with less surface around 1000 when the lanes transition, The rule of 31 puts the ball exiting oil around 21 board

You will have more success playing this pattern with a straight shot and hooking the ball only slightly. Use low ball speed and be accurate with your throws. This shot is extremely challenging, but if you stay accurate, the shot won’t change much.

This pattern features a mix of medium and long oil patterns, with a heavier concentration of oil on the outside of the lane.

  • Strokers start around the 21 board with slow ball speed.
  • Tweeners may try a few boards inside 21 board.
  • Power players need to slow down and keep it tight.

Tip: Keep you speed slow, and try to maintain your accuracy.

Bear – 41 feet

The Oil Pattern known as the “Bear Pattern” is a popular pattern used in Professional Bowlers Association (PBA) tournaments. It is a medium-length pattern featuring a total of 40 feet of oil with a volume of 38 ml. This is basically a house shot with a lot more oil of oil.

Rule of 31 puts the ball exiting the oil around the 10 board. This is close to the normal starting point of the house shot but will more oil, slower speed may be the key.

Asymmetrical balls with a strong reactive cover may work best here. Some surface may help to set the ball up into the pocket and tone down any over reaction.

This pattern features a mix of medium and long oil patterns, with a heavier concentration of oil on the outside of the lane. The Bear has a higher volume of oil and requires accuracy. As the lanes transition, they will give you a little bit of room to the outside. But, shots missed outside will have a hard time coming back.

Power players may need that aggressive cover with the lower RG.

  • Strokers start on 9 board
  • Tweeners start around 10-12 board
  • Power players inside and target 10-12 board

Tip: Using a higher RG may help to control the hook on this shot.

Wolf – 33 feet

The PBA Wolf Pattern is the shortest PBA animal oil pattern at 33 feet. Using the rule of 31, the ball exits the oil on the 2 board. That doesn’t give you much room for error. I would personally target the 4 – 5 board area, and give myself some room. And move my feet left or right from there.

I would definitely bring a urethane ball to play on this shot. A symmetric core with medium RG would be a plus as well. Asymmetrical balls with a higher RG or a pearl cover may do well here. These patterns are a challenge for the high rev players.

  • Strokers target close to the gutter, and move you feet left.
  • Tweeners target 4-5 board.
  • Power players target 5 board or less.

Tip: It will be important to keep the ball speed higher on this shot.

Dragon- 45 feet

The Dragon is a medium length pattern featuring a total of 45 feet of oil. And has an oil volume of between 20-32 ml. The Rule of 31 puts a ball exiting the oil at 14 board.

It is interesting that the Dragon features a mix of medium and long oil patterns, with a heavier concentration of oil on the outside of the lane. There is a higher concentration around the 2nd arrow, so the zone to play is around 8-12 board.

Asymmetrical balls are good here with mid range RG that give you a controlled reaction to the pocket. On the fresh oil, you could start with a stronger ball, but you will likely be moving left pretty quickly. Again, urethane here may be a plus as well.

The pattern has a higher-than-average amount of friction, making it a challenging pattern to bowl on.

  • Strokers start area is around the 10 board or less.
  • Tweeners start around the 10-12 board.
  • Power players target 3rd to 2nd arrows.

Tip: Don’t be afraid to try weaker balls and pearls on this pattern.

Tips for Playing These PBA Oil Patterns:

  • Make sure to pay attention to the type of oil pattern and adjust your speed accordingly.
  • Start playing the pattern from the outside, moving inwards.
  • Use an asymmetrical core to help you create more revs and angle of entry into the pins.
  • Pay attention to the volume of oil being used in each pattern and adjust your ball accordingly.
  • Utilize a variety of releases to help you maximize your scores.
  • Be patient when playing these patterns and take your time.

I hope you have enjoyed reading my article, and maybe you learned something. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below and I will Get Back to You ASAP.


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6 thoughts on “Oil Patterns In Ten Pin Bowling – What You Need To Know”

  1. Hi Chas – Wow! I am so glad I found your site! I love to bowl, but the pandemic took its toll on my weekly bowling date with friends. I learned so much about the oil patterns and videos that I had no idea about! What an impressive and complete post! I told a friend about your post and she is going to check it out. We are going to get back to the lanes. Unfortunately, the one closest to us has closed down, so we are heading into San Francisco with a couple of options. You have inspired me to get back out there for my recreational bowling hobby! I’ll be back to your site for more info! Thanks again! ANNE Z

    • Hi Anne,
      Thank you for your kind words! I am glad you learned something from my article! Yea, the pandemic took it’s toll on everyone! I quit bowling that year and came back in the next year. I am glad to hear you are going bowling again! Have a great time and i hope your scores are good too!

  2. Hi Chas,

    This is such an interesting article, and I love the videos too.

    I haven’t been ten pin bowling for a good while. The only time we ever went was when we were celebrating a birthday or another occasion.

    On the projects I work on, they are going well so it is about time I took my team ten pin bowling to celebrate how well we are doing and help them to feel good.

    I think I will try to make it competitive so I am going to share your site with them and see if we can get two teams formed.

    They can learn a lot from you and from your videos…keep them up.

    I will let you know how we go 🙂

    All the best,


    • Hi Tom,
      Glad you liked my article! Most of the time in open bowling, you will only see a house pattern that has been bowled on quite a bit. The oly time the put fresh oil down is usually right before a league bowls. If you are lucky some alleys oil a few extra lanes in case of a breakdown. And so you may get some good oil bowling beside a league that is bowling. But, most times open bowling is waiting for the leagues to finish up.
      Thank you for sharing my site, I hope they enjoy it and learn something! I look forward to hearing how your bowling party works out!
      thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment.

  3. I always enjoy reading your articles. l definitely learn something new each time!
    I don’t know much about bowling other than my kids when they used to go to bowling parties!
    As for the oiling part, I had no idea this takes place, which aids in technique!
    Gosh, you would need indepth training to play this game, I guess all these players have acquired their skills over time and playing regularly!
    I thought if you can carry that heavy bowling ball and throw it in a straight line, then you might score a full house, but now I know there is more to it!
    Thanks for this well explained article, I can go around saying ‘I bet you didn’t know they oiled the lanes to bowl, and each oiled pattern has a name? I have already had a reply ‘really?’
    Great stuff, keep up the good work.

    • Hi Julia,
      I am glad you enjoyed the article, and learned something! Yes, the lanes are oiled to keep them from wearing and creating too much friction from wear. And yes the bowling alley wants you to have a good time and come back. It’s good for business!
      The PBA has the professionals in the sport, and they would just score at will on the normal house shot. Plus, the players that bowl on these patterns have mastered the house shot and look for more challenges. They are the most difficult patterns to bowl on. It is sorts hard to believe what a difference the oil pattern can make in your game, good or bad!
      Thank you for taking the time to leave such a nice comment! Please stop back soon!


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